The other day, I did a quick search for “news” on Google, and that simple search yielded disheartening results; more controversies regarding candidates for the U.S. presidential election, a failed mission to rescue hostages in Afghanistan, a policeman stabbed in France, and a shooting at a High School in Texas. It seems like the news has been filled with stories like this for far too long, an unrelenting string of tragedy and pain.
But there’s something else that you may be seeing on social media today, regarding another tragedy that affects every city, state, and nation throughout the world. It’s something that isn’t talked about much, in fact many would consider it a “taboo” topic, as it carries a vast amount of stigma and shame. You’re probably hearing about it today more than usual, but it’s no less of a reality any other day of the year. Today is World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD).
A few statistics from the World Health Organization:
- Approximately every 40 seconds, a life is cut short by suicide.
- For each of those deaths, there are likely over 20 more people who attempted suicide.
- Suicide claims the life of over 800,000 people worldwide each year.
- (If you do the math, based on these statistics there are around 16 million suicide attempts each year… which is more than the lives claimed by heart disease and stroke combined).
- Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-29 year olds globally.
It’s an epidemic not caused by a virus or other contaminant, or by poor nutrition or genetic abnormalities (granted, some of these may indeed be factors… but that’s a topic for another day). Suicide claims the life of so many, and affects the lives of many more, because of a lack of HOPE.
The idea of suicide is a difficult one to comprehend, particularly for those who have never experienced a struggle with it. That’s because human beings, and all creatures really, are intrinsically programmed for self-preservation.
Self-Preservation: (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
- Preservation of oneself from destruction or harm
- A natural or instinctive tendency to act so as to preserve one’s own existence
With few exceptions (such as heroic sacrifices), we go to great lengths to preserve our own lives… our bodies were designed with the capacity to perform spectacular feats in the face of life-threatening situations. In light of that, consider just how dark and painful things have to get in order to override one of our most basic instincts… That’s the power of hopelessness.
There are some things that I’ve learned about hopelessness from spending years in its grasp… Hopelessness is consuming, suffocating, and paralyzing… it whispers (and sometimes screams) persuasive words that lure us into despair and despondency. Hopelessness seeks to keep us in the dark, and to make us forget that the light exists. But there’s something else that I’ve learned about hopelessness; it’s a liar. Or more accurately, the one who preaches the message of hopelessness to our souls in our darkest moments is a liar (John 8:44), and hopelessness is one of his favorite lies.
There was a time in my life where I viewed hope as a joke, wishful thinking or naïve optimism… and I think that’s exactly what misplaced hope is. Far too often when we look for hope, we look for it in a person, a set of circumstances, a resource, a career, or a treatment. But those things will always leave us wanting and disillusioned.
When I found hope after years of hopelessness, the beautiful thing was that my circumstances hadn’t changed… That is beautiful because true hope is not dependent on circumstances. Hope is powerful because it remains despite our circumstances. Hope can pierce through even the darkest and the most “hopeless” of circumstances. True hope is unshakable.
See, God doesn’t give us hope by giving us the right circumstances… He gives us hope by giving us Himself. He IS our hope.
“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,’ even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.” – Psalm 139:7-12
Think about that for a minute… The darkness can be so consuming, suffocating, and paralyzing. Yet that darkness is no match for our God, in fact it might as well be light to Him (that is GOOD news)! God is not intimidated by the darkness that we feel, it poses no threat to His power. Hopelessness is an illusion… not the feeling of hopelessness (that is, unfortunately, a very real thing), but the reality of it… there is no such thing as a hopeless situation, for the mountains that we face – the ones we think we can’t possibly get past – aren’t even a bump in the road to God. And when we put our hope in God, our hope is secure… even in a world that is anything but.
“Our divine vocation is not ultimately to suffering, but to a hope that triumphs over suffering. It is the hope of our future inheritance with Christ. This hope is no mere wish or idle longing of the soul. It is a hope that is rooted in the exceedingly great power of God. It is a hope that cannot fail. For those who embrace it, this hope will never bring shame or disappointment. The hope of eternal joy in the presence of Christ, a hope that sustains us in the midst of temporary suffering, is the legacy of Jesus Christ. It is the promise of God to all who put their trust in Him.” – R.C. Sproul
For those who feel hopeless today, I have been there… But you need to hear that the hopelessness you feel is a lie. There is hope, and it is not out of reach – in fact it is closer than you know. And in a way that I cannot even begin to explain, I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that hope is real, and hope changes everything. Don’t give up.
And for those of us who have hope today, let’s not keep it to ourselves! The chances are, you know someone who is hurting today… someone who is buying into the lie of hopelessness, and who needs to hear you call it the lie that it is and shine a light into their darkness. So speak hope – today and every day – and let people see you living out your hope. Let’s be a people whose message of HOPE is loud enough to drown out the lies of hopelessness and despair.